University of Sheffield chosen as Centre of Excellence for Engineering and Architecture

Jessop West - a sustainable building on campusThe University of Sheffield’s Department of Civil Engineering and School of Architecture have been chosen by the Royal Academy of Engineering to jointly develop one of four new ‘Centres of Excellence in Sustainable Building Design’ in the UK.

Sheffield was chosen for its proven track record in delivering innovative interdisciplinary programmes which encourage students of architecture and engineering to develop the cooperation, outreach, research and education which are key to integrating the principles of sustainable design.

The other three centres will be located at University College London, Herriott-Watt University Edinburgh and Loughborough University and will form a national network to demonstrate and exchange best practice in teaching and research for the sustainable built environment.

Together, the four centres of excellence will ultimately collaborate to deliver a common core curriculum and approach in interdisciplinary education for engineers and architects, while maintaining their own individual characters and interests.

Professor Fionn Stevenson, Co-Director of the new Centre and Incoming Head of the School of Architecture at the University of Sheffield, said: ‘We are really delighted to be working with our colleagues in Engineering to deliver socially engaged, technically excellent professionals in the built environment. This award of excellence recognises our position at the forefront of sustainable design, teaching and research in the built environment. It builds on our position as the number one School of Architecture in the UK outside of London, according to a recent survey of the Architecture profession (Architectural Journal, May 2013).

Dr Buick Davison from the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering and Co-director of the new Centre said: “With the support of the Academy’s Visiting Professor in Building Engineering Physics scheme we developed and introduced a unique integrated Masters programme in Architectural Engineering Design in 2008. This successful programme combines Structural and Mechanical Engineering with Architecture and is dual-accredited by the JBM and IMechE.

Hosting an RAE Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Design is a great endorsement of what we have managed to achieve in a very short period of time and will be a launch pad to develop further this exciting area of teaching and research. Working collaboratively as part of a network of RAE Centres of Excellence we seek to have a much greater influence in bringing about the changes needed in policy, practice and training in order to meet the considerable challenges associated with the design and delivery of sustainable buildings.”

The rationale for establishing the centres comes from an Academy report published last year, The Case for Centres of Excellence in Sustainable Building Design. The primary aim is to enhance the curriculum for undergraduate engineering students, enabling them to experience interdisciplinary, collaborative problem solving to help them unlock their potential for innovation. The centres will also help to provide continuing professional development to engineers already working in the construction industry.

Decarbonising our society depends crucially on tackling emissions from the built environment, as set out in 2010 in the Academy report Engineering a low carbon built environment. Author Professor Doug King FREng is leading the initiative to set up the new centres of excellence.

Professor King said: “UK Construction is changing rapidly as the industry assimilates new requirements for sustainability and new working practices. The education of construction professionals is also under scrutiny for its relevance to this new paradigm. The new Centres of Excellence in Sustainable Building Design will develop new research-led teaching for engineers. They will prepare engineering graduates to deliver the sustainable buildings the UK needs at substantially lower cost than is presently achieved. The savings will be measured in billions of pounds to the UK economy and a substantial reduction in commercial risk for developers.”

The universities all work closely with the construction industry to develop their engineering design courses to be as relevant as possible to the work students can expect to do in the construction industry when they graduate. Visiting Professors from industry are a key part of this approach and will be heavily involved in developing the new centres of excellence.

Additional information

The University of Sheffield

With nearly 25,000 of the brightest students from 117 countries coming to learn alongside 1,209 of the world’s best academics, it is clear why the University of Sheffield is one of the UK’s leading universities. Staff and students at Sheffield are committed to helping discover and understand the causes of things - and propose solutions that have the power to transform the world we live in.

A member of the Russell Group, the University of Sheffield has a reputation for world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines. The University of Sheffield has been named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards 2011 for its exceptional performance in research, teaching, access and business performance. In addition, the University has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes (1998, 2000, 2002, 2007), recognising the outstanding contribution by universities and colleges to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

One of the markers of a leading university is the quality of its alumni and Sheffield boasts five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students. Its alumni have gone on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, Boots, AstraZeneca, GSK, Siemens, Yorkshire Water, and many more household names, as well as UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

The University has well-established partnerships with a number of universities and major corporations, both in the UK and abroad. The White Rose University Consortium (White Rose) is a strategic partnership between 3 of the UK's leading research universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York. Since its creation in 1997 White Rose has secured more than £100M into the Universities.


Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.


For further information please contact:

Amy Stone
Media Relations Officer
The University of Sheffield
0114 222 1046